Tag rugby, a non contact and softer version of rugby, is steadily popularizing the sport in schools around the country.
Used mostly as a developmental game for kids and junior school ladies, the game has now become a hit among senior secondary school females.
Zilwele Khumalo, the Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) Development Officer, said that at least 23 senior schools across the country already have ladies rugby teams which play tag rugby.
Unlike contact rugby, any contact or tackling is not allowed in the game. Instead of tackling each other, tag rugby players are given tags which they place on their hips and these are pulled off by opposition players instead of tackling.
However, Khumalo says save for not allowing tackling in tag rugby, every aspect of the rugby game and its laws are the same as in contact rugby.
The BRU development officer says they are currently embarking on introducing both versions of the rugby sport to schools across the country as part of their developmental strategy.
While admitting there is now a lot of girls participating in rugby, Khumalo says they cannot be certain as to how many are keen in taking the sport after they leave school.
He says another challenge facing girls’ rugby is the lack of physique among young Batswana girls. Khumalo says they are struggling to find girls with strong physique to withstand the rigors of full contact rugby and who are keen to take the sport.
As with every sport in the country, the BRU Development Officer laments that lack of proper infrastructure is hampering the development of rugby in the country. He says if it was according to the Rugby Union’s wishes, senior secondary schools’ ladies rugby teams should be playing full contact rugby to prepare them for club rugby, which they are expected to play once they have passed the developmental stage.
He, however, says due to the fact that contact rugby needs grassed grounds, for which they have access to only one, girls rugby is played on hard ground, which is not safe for contact rugby, hence they continue playing tag rugby.
“If by tomorrow we get a piece of land that we can develop, senior secondary schools rugby teams will be playing full contact rugby by next year,” Zilwele told StandardSport.
She says in the interest of rugby development, they also intend to invite girls who have potential and who are very keen on the game for training camps. He, however, says taking into consideration the fact that these are still students, they have to do it in a way that will not interfere with their studies.
Still on the issue of development, Khumalo says BRU is committed to the development of rugby among women. He says currently, they are also introducing rugby at tertiary institutions as a way of developing teachers who can teach and coach rugby.
He says they already have teams at Molepolole College of Education but they also intend to spread to all colleges in the country. Currently, there is a very limited number of ladies rugby clubs, a development which is very worrisome to Botswana’s rugby fraternity.
He says this adversely affects the development of the game and the ladies rugby national teams as players are not pushed for their places due to lack of competition. He says to ensure that ladies rugby is active, they hold at least five tournaments a year and these are used to select national team players.